Lady Rebs fall in home finale

Ole Miss wanted to finish .500 in league play and win one for the seniors on their day. In the first half of Florida's 72-66 Sunday win in Oxford, it looked like the plan was working. But in the second half, the Lady Gators had other plans.

Ole Miss led 38-21 at halftime, but the two teams reversed roles in the second half. Florida outscored Ole Miss 51-28 in the last 20 minutes for the victory.

The Lady Rebels fell to 12-15 overall and 6-8 in Southeastern Conference play. The Lady Gators improved to 17-12 and 6-8.

Up next for both teams is the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., later this week. But it will take a day or two for the Lady Rebels to shake off the effects of this one.

"Give Florida a lot of credit," said Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner. "We had them down for the count at halftime. It was a tale of two halves. The first half we were as good as we could possibly be. In the second half we completely got out of our gameplan. Florida responded and we didn't."

Lady Gator Coach Amanda Butler, who played at Florida under former Ole Miss Coach Carol Ross, said she could not have been more pleased with her team in the second half.

"I'm tremendously proud of the fight and pride we played with," she said of the Lady Gators. "It had a lot less to do with coaching and a lot more to do with the heart and desire and will of the players. This was a big win for us. Ole Miss does not lose often here."

Two of the Lady Rebel seniors said this one was difficult to take.

"There was a lot at stake," said Carla Bartee, who paced her team with 20 points. "We needed that game. It was our Senior Day, but more than that we needed to win. We just didn't finish."

"This was a very important game for us, because we are still trying to get to postseason play," said Danetra Forrest, who led UM in rebounding with 10 boards on the day. "But we can't dwell on it now. We have to come back strong for the SEC Tournament."

Ole Miss' halftime advantage was the largest of the game for the home team. Florida's largest lead was the final score, proving this was indeed a tale of two halves.

With Florida chipping away at the Lady Rebels' lead, Ole Miss still led 64-63 when starting guard Kayla Melson was fouled and injured on a play with 2:14 left. (Her injury status is currently unknown; it appeared to be a knee.) Senior Lindsay Roy came off the bench cold and hit two free throws to expand the UM lead to 66-63.

But Florida would score the final nine points of the game as the Lady Rebels made four turnovers in the game's last two minutes. Ole Miss had 12 turnovers in the second half to only five for the Lady Gators.

Shawn Goff also had 13 points for the Lady Rebels.

Florida had four players in double figures, led by Sha Brooks with 19.

In addition to Bartee, Forrest, and Roy, the other Lady Rebel seniors honored before the game were Tasi Worsham and Brandi Tipton.

"They played their hearts out," Ladner said of the seniors. "They've worked as hard as any group of seniors I've been involved with here. They are broken-hearted about the loss, and I am broken-hearted for them."

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